What are they and where do they come from. The history behind one of the world’s most precious gems is rarely talked about. They are and have been longstanding one of the most beautiful objects of desire. The Roman naturalist Pliny commented on the subject of diamonds: “Diamond is the most valuable, not only of precious stones, but of things in the world.”
Appreciated for centuries for its splendor not much scientific knowledge about diamonds was known before the twentieth century. Through meticulous research by physicists, mineralogists, geologists and oceanographers in the past 50 years alone the diamond industry has learnt a lot about diamond formation and how they are actually transported to the earths surface. this knowledge has proved to be very helpful in determining new locations for new discoveries.
Buyers today see diamonds in jeweler’s display cases, worn by models, high profile actresses, etc. The process of these natural gems begins under extreme heat and pressure. Arriving on the surface of the earth by a violent upward ejection forced by mother nature.The final state of the polished diamond is arrived by incessant cleaving, cutting & polishing.
The origins of diamonds starts from India a fact not really known by people where they were first discovered in rivers and streams. As early as the fourth century, diamond trading had commenced in India. India’s wealthy classes were amongst the first to purchase these shiny small stones. Gradually and by the 1400’s diamonds found their way to Europe and fast became fashion accessories for the elite european classes.
However much to the dismay of India – supplies became scarce and another country on the other side of the world emerged as the worlds new source for diamonds – Brazil. Remaining the top player for diamonds for a span of more than 150 years Brazil dominated the world market for diamonds.
Evolution is a must and the market also went through its own ups and downs by the late 1700’s. The elite or ruling classes which were the main and most important segment of the market were in decline. Political, socio-economic factors and not to forget the French Revolution were mediums that led to important changes in the distribution of wealth. In the late 1800’s the demand for diamonds expanded at the same time when western Europe and the United States were showing signs of increased wealth and affluence. At around the same time large diamond deposits were unearthed in South Africa.
In 1866 diamonds were discovered in Kimberley, Africa – this was the start of the modern diamond market that we witness today. DeBeers Consolidated Mines was established by the well known diamondteer in the diamond trading circles known as Mr. Cecil Rhodes almost 22 years later in 1888. 90% of the worlds production of rough diamonds in the world were controlled by DeBeers by 1900 !
As the main market in South Africa developed and diamond mining advanced from surface to further underground more efficient mining techniques were invented and practised. Better efforts on marketing made it necessary to improve cutting & polishing methods to enhance the final appearance of finished stones.
Rough diamond production in the 1870’s was under a million carats. This figure had increased to 3 million carats by the late 1920’s. Annual production in the next 50 years had increased to 50 million carats and had surpassed 100+ million carats per year by the 1990’s. Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo), South Africa and the former Soviet Union by the end of the 1970’s were the most important diamond producers globally.
Botswana entered the diamond production scene in 1982 when a highly productive mine was discovered there. A source of high quality diamonds from the Jwaneng mine exponentially increased production to make it rank third in the world in terms of total diamond recovery and second in diamond value. Botswana government then contracted to sell the mines production to DeBeers and also commenced the process of building its very own diamond -cuttin industry.
New discoveries were made in Australia in 1985 (famous today for pink and fancy coloured diamonds) and also in northern Canada in 2000.
The 1990’s saw a flurry of activity and a shocking growth of diamond cutting centers. Debeers role also changed significantly and the establishment today bears little resemblance to what is was in 1989. The decision to reduce its role as the custodian of diamond supply and instead focusing on supplying the world markets via multiple channels.
Today diamonds are regarded by many as a safe form of investment and definitely a social must. Weddings today – are rarely held without the presence of these very precious little gems !
Other articles written by the author which have been published in The National – a leading daily publication in the UAE which comprises of staff from widely respected publications including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and the Daily Telegraph.